Last night I saw this gorgeous movie called Smiles of a Summer Night. This Ingmar Bergman period piece comedy runs rampant with extremely clever and witty dialogue. It’s so unashamedly cheeky! On the surface, it’s seemingly a light-hearted humorous romp but it eventually seeps into very dark places and with surprising potency. We laugh at the histrionics of it, but Bergman keeps us ever present of the dark nature residing within ourselves.
The film’s plot—which involves switching partners on a summer night—has been adapted many times, arguably most notably as Woody Allen’s film A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982).
I admire how Bergman delves so delicately into the emotional intelligence and sexuality of women in this movie. Men do not come off so well in Bergman’s charming sex comedy. The women on the other hand are stronger, more self-reflective, capable of pandering to the male ego and to direct their affections elsewhere when the need arises. Retribution and humiliation galore in this film.
The key themes of the film – ‘Love’ and ‘Youth’ are wonderfully expounded in the dialogue below. It’s about how Love is almost a thing confined to the past; an experience associated with innocence, virginity and youth and the older one gets, the pursuit of Love ( a ‘young lover’s’ ideal) only brings about desperation, frustration and ultimately despair.
PETRA: Why have I never been a young lover? Can you tell me that?
FRID: There are only a very few young lovers on this earth. Yes, one can almost count them. Love has smitten them both as a gift and as a punishment. We invoke love, call out for it, beg for it, cry for it, try to imitate it, think that we have it, lie about it.
PETRA: But we don’t have it.
FRID: No, my sugar plum. The love of lovers is denied to us. We don’t have the gift.
PETRA: Nor the punishment.
See the full transcript here, which explains the 3 smiles of the summer night.
Ingmar Bergman never ceases to amaze me. I have to see it again to ascertain if it is one of my favourite Bergman films. There is just so much great competition, such as Winter Light, Wild Strawberries and Persona to name but a few. I’d like to know where this film stands amongst your favourite Bergman movies.
Once you have seen the film you may want to check out the always entertaining and highly informative Breaking Down Bergman series film review of ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’.